Financial stress is weighing on employees, but it also weighs on the companies they work for.
And small businesses are no exception, feeling the pain when employees struggle to stay solvent.
According to a report by SmartDollar and parent company Ramsey Solutions, employees who insist on living paycheck to paycheck are dragging down small businesses—via absenteeism, financial crises, and the perceived need by employers to help these stressed employees by allowing such measures as “advances on salaries or one-time gifts.”
In the report, Brian Hamilton, Ramsey Solutions vice president of SmartDollar, said, “[T]he effect is that employees are forever putting off the need to take better care of their own finances and break the cycle of debt and emergency living. Too often workers wind up living one event away from a true financial catastrophe. And that’s risky both for employees and the small businesses where they work.”
Financial stress isn’t just a matter for employees at the bottom of the pay scale, the report said. While 68 percent of employees working at small businesses (those with fewer than 200 employees) are living paycheck to paycheck, 50 percent of small-business employees earning $100,000 or more are in the same boat as their lesser-paid colleagues.
Constantly running out of money keeps small-business employees from having a hopeful outlook on debt; their peers who don’t live paycheck to paycheck are more optimistic. Three out of five small-business workers who live paycheck to paycheck also said paying off all of their consumer debt was their most important financial goal, but only 29 percent are confident that they can do so within the next two years.
Among those who don’t live paycheck to paycheck, 72 percent feel confident or very confident they’ll be debt free in the same time period.
Employees dancing around financial ruin spend time and energy doing so, and the stress takes a toll on their mental and physical wellness; they often feel sick and tired.
Fifty-six percent of small-business employees living paycheck to paycheck report high or overwhelming stress. Financial woes carry over to the business, too, not just bringing higher levels of payroll advances and garnishments but also more distractions at work and higher absenteeism.
Instead of providing “enabling” measures like salary advances, or standing by as employees in the throes of financial crisis increase absenteeism and decrease productivity, employers should be providing financially stressed employees with “access to the information and inspiration that can effect true behavior change,” Hamilton said, adding, “Too many workers have never known any lifestyle other than going from paycheck to paycheck, and they desperately need a plan to move forward.”